Author: Dan Keeler
Somebody, Do Something!

As Global Finance was going to press, the world’s leaders were gathering in New York City for the United Nations conference. Soon after that conflab, another group of the great and good were to be heading to Washington for the World Bank conference and the IMF Annual Meeting. While the UN was holding its meeting, former US president Bill Clinton was in town hosting a gathering of luminaries from the worlds of politics and business. On the fringes of all these meetings, other groups were getting together to make plans for the future.

It’s not unusual for so many key figures from the worlds of business and politics to gather for so many meetings. This time, however, something unprecedented has happened. Many of the discussions are developing a common theme, one that is bringing together people and organizations of all political and economic stripes. That theme is poverty.

Over the years we’ve all seen harrowing coverage that graphically shows the devastating effects of poverty. Often it is linked with some other disaster such as a famine, an earthquake or a war. Most recently, and perhaps most disturbingly, it has been the images from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that have been flooding the media. The dreadful scenes of suffering, violence and desperation have awakened many to the reality of poverty—to its corrosive effects and to its potential to tear apart the fragile fabric of society.

Not surprisingly, the images from New Orleans have triggered a huge outpouring of support and compassion—and the familiar anguished cry of “How could this happen? Why wasn’t something done?” It’s always tempting to say “something should be done,” but whenever something gets done, the chances are it is because someone is doing it. It is incumbent upon us as individuals, as decision-makers, to recognize our responsibility and act upon it. Many companies and individuals are already doing that. As the waters recede in Louisiana and Mississippi, we can only hope that the will to fight poverty remains. If that happens, all the talking will have been worthwhile.

Until next month, Dan Keeler